DEAR ABBY: I am an ophthalmologist who specializes in the treatment of diseases of the retina -- which is the "seeing tissue" of the eye. You cannot imagine how frustrating, disheartening and sad it is to see patients on a daily basis who have vision loss from the effects of their diabetes. In many instances, I am the person who must inform them that they may not get their vision back and eventually they will become legally blind.
The reason I am frustrated is because I know that if these patients had only come in earlier, or exercised better control of their blood sugar (glucose) levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, most of their visual loss could have been avoided.
Please, Abby, remind your readers with diabetes that by maintaining control of their blood sugar they can reduce visual loss. Every patient over the age of 30 who is diabetic should have an eye exam as soon as he or she is diagnosed and a yearly exam thereafter. Diabetic eye disease does not cause pain and it must be treated early, while vision is still good, to avoid serious loss of sight. With proper care and attention, blindness -- one of the most devastating complications of diabetes -- can be prevented. -- DAVID S. BOYER, M.D., DIRECTOR, AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION OF L.A.
DEAR DR. BOYER: Thank you for an important letter. I was shocked to learn that an estimated 16 million people in the United States have diabetes, and one-third of them do not know they have it. While diabetes affects people of all ages and ethnicities, diabetes is more prevalent in minority communities -- especially Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians.
However, regardless of ethnicity -- if there is a history of diabetes in the family, an annual physical examination and an eye examination by a medical doctor are a must. The sight you save, and the quality of life you improve, could be your own.